A Typical Safety eBulletin
It is always amusing to receive safety newsletters and publications from associations and note the language/discourse used. The latest HSE mail out is typical. The leading story is about a free webinar to manage risk.
When one learns to think critically one knows how to ask questions about agenda, politics, power and discourse (the power in language). In Discourse Analysis it is not just important to study what is said but also what is not said and how it is said. You won’t find anything globally in the safety industry on Critical Theory of Discourse Analysis. So, nothing to see here.
The webinar is about ‘how to understand and control risks’ not about how to understand persons and how they tackle risk. This subtle emphasis is critical in understanding how this industry speaks about its challenges. The focus is on risk as an object not persons and risk as a human state.
In orthodox/traditional safety this is where the emphasis lies, on systems to manage risk not on people and how they tackle risk. In this webinar this is justified by the phrase ‘to meet legal requirements in protecting workers’. Of course, this shouldn’t be the justification for tackling risk not is it true. Most risk management systems are not a legal defence in court often because they are poorly enacted or are understood as an end in themselves. One only has to read Papersafe by Greg Smith to understand that most often Safety Management Systems are used against you in court.
When Greg and I offer our Due Diligence workshop (https://cllr.com.au/product/due-diligence-workshop-unit-13/) most participants are astounded to learn that most of what they do is NOT a legal requirement and neither does what they do absolve legal liability.
Many beliefs in risk and safety and the systems created to manage risk are based much more on safety mythology than reality.
Many safety initiatives paraded in the safety industry are more about the propaganda and marketing of myths than about the realities of legal liability and what to do about it.
How interesting that when something goes wrong in an organization that a legal professional is called in, safety people are not legal professionals indeed, they are not professional at all. How can Safety be professional when it doesn’t hold to the practice of ‘helping’, has no theory of personhood and therefore no ethical base? How can safety be professional when it denies fallibility and idolizes the ideology of zero? The only outcome of Zero is brutalism. When you frame your activity by a number, what ever follows will be unethical.
So, this webinar is not about persons but about object control and the control of objects. There is no mention of persons or decision making in the webinar but be assured the ‘experts’ will give you a system to control risk?
And if you like, you can follow up with the downloading of an app about understanding the law and responsibilities. What a neat little package, I can just imagine what the app does and certainly wouldn’t waste a cent on it. Another checklist after just admitting in the previous marketing blurb that safety has become a ‘tick a box’ exercise.
Then the next offer in the bulletin is a ‘Near Miss Book’ and an ‘Accident Book’, more focus on objects and policing regulations.
How fascinating this industry that never talks about politics and power, about ethics or personhood, the focus is always on controlling objects and policing regulations and here we have yet one more eBulletin confirming it.